A few weeks ago, Vodafone announced that it is stopping all its e-mail services at the end of November. Customers who had used their e-mail handles for decades were distraught. The news rightfully sent a chill down all our spines; your e-mail address feels like part of your identity, and this could happen to anyone.
If you’re affected by the announcement, don’t panic. You can get through this. If you’re not affected, read on anyway: one day, this could be you.
The new you
Your first job is to choose a new e-mail address. This boils down to setting up a free account from an e-mail service like Gmail, Yahoo!, or Outlook.com, or buying your own domain.
Whichever you choose, accept that sooner or later you may want or need to change it. Not even Gmail will exist forever, and you might not always be able to afford, or want to use, a custom domain like jolie-pitt.nz.
Even as you start out, full of hope, with a new e-mail address, you should be prepared for the inevitable end of the romance.
Don’t rely on forwarding
Vodafone is offering to forward e-mail to your new address for up to one year. While forwarding is a useful stopgap to ensure you don’t lose any e-mail, it’s not a permanent solution, and it’s only for incoming mail, not mail you send.
Instead of relying on mail forwarding, take steps now to disconnect yourself from the old e-mail address. When forwarding ends, you won’t even notice.
Tell all your friends
The hardest part of changing your e-mail address is getting your friends and relatives to use the new one.
If you send out a bulk e-mail to friends and family, put their addresses in the BCC field, and your own address in the To field. This hides recipients’ e-mail addresses from each other. It’s a nice courtesy to people who don’t necessarily want their e-mail address shared with everyone else you know.
Some contacts will doggedly keep sending to your old address. Try to remember there are people (not just oldies!) who simply don’t know how to update their contacts. You might need to walk them through it.
Change your contact address
If you haven’t already, start updating your e-mail details with organisations and service providers now.
Use Vodafone’s handy and quite comprehensive list of sites and services as a prompt to make your own list of the sites you need to update. Don’t forget to check phone apps; many of them make you create an account with an e-mail address.
Start with the most important organisations like your employer, bank, power, phone, insurance companies, and the IRD. Don’t forget that losing your data, or your online identity, can be as traumatic as losing money; update your Google or Apple ID, file-sharing logins, and social media accounts as soon as you can.
I won’t lie. Remembering all the places you used your e-mail address, then updating it on all those sites, is tedious work. It’s even worse if you’ve forgotten the passwords. Right about now, you’ll be wishing you’d recorded all your login details somewhere. Somewhere like…a password manager.
If you’re not already using a password manager, start now. There are loads to choose from, both paid and free. The best ones sync your data securely across all your devices, automatically fill in your login details when you visit websites, and detect when you’re trying to create an account on a new website, so that they can save your new login details, and even generate a random password for you.
As you visit each site to update your contact details, add the login details to your password manager. You’ll never forget a password again, and the next time you have to change your e-mail address, you’ll have a ready-made list of sites to check.
Catch the stragglers
For every site you remembered to update, there are probably two or three sites or mailing lists that you signed up to, glanced at once, and have forgotten about.
Whenever you get e-mail from one of these stragglers, think about whether you still want them around at all. Instead of updating your e-mail address, just unsubscribe or delete your account. Do this as soon as you receive the e-mail, or move the e-mail to a folder called something like Address Updates, so that you don’t forget to deal with it.
For detailed help on cutting back on unwanted e-mail, see my e-book How to Get Less E-Mail.
Save your old e-mails
OK, you’ve got your new e-mail sorted. What do you do with all the old messages?
E-mails are always arriving, are easy to hide away, and take up no physical space, so it’s not surprising that almost nobody bothers to clear out their e-mail archives. This slack attitude is now about to come back to bite you. The more e-mails you have, the more time and disk space it takes to archive them, or to transfer them into your new e-mail account.
Culling e-mails before you export them can be surprisingly time-consuming. For a quick win, use your e-mail program’s search or filter functions to find the very largest e-mails—say, anything over 20 MB. If you still need the attachment, download it; then there’s usually no need to keep the e-mail it came with.
You can also filter e-mails by sender, or subject, then delete unwanted ones in bulk, like obsolete notifications from Trade Me or Facebook. This won’t reduce the size of your e-mail much, but it will cut down on numbers.
I recommend archiving e-mails rather than importing them into your new account. Who wants to start a fresh new relationship with a whole lot of baggage? If there are a few important old e-mails you need for easy reference, forward them now to your new e-mail address, or print them to PDF.
If you do choose to archive, try to save your archive in a couple of different formats, and keep copies on a DVD as well as on a backup drive. Better safe than sorry. The steps required to archive or export will depend on what e-mail services and clients you use. Check the Vodafone help page for a start.
Of course, you could always forward crucial e-mails to your new account, or print them to PDF, then just let your old archive vanish. How freeing!